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The Jihad Schoolbook Scandal...

Why has the US been Shipping Muslim Extremist Schoolbooks into Afghanistan...for 20 Years?

And why is President Bush hiding it?

By Jared Israel
[Posted 9 April 2002]


Have you heard about the Afghan Jihad schoolbook scandal?

Or perhaps I should say, "Have you heard about the Afghan Jihad schoolbook scandal that's waiting to happen?"

Because it has been almost unreported in the Western media that the US government shipped, and continues to ship, millions of Islamist (or Islamic fundamentalist) textbooks into Afghanistan.

Only one English-speaking newspaper we could find has investigated this issue: the Washington Post. The story appeared March 23rd. [1]

Washington Post investigators report that during the past twenty years the US has spent millions of dollars producing fanatical schoolbooks, which were then distributed in Afghanistan.

"The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then [i.e., since the violent destruction of the Afghan secular government in the early 1990s] as the Afghan school system's core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books..."
-- Washington Post, 23 March 2002 
See footnote

According to the Post the U.S. is now "...wrestling with the unintended consequences of its successful strategy of stirring Islamic fervor to fight communism."

So the books made up the core curriculum in Afghan schools. And what were the unintended consequences? The Post reports that according to unnamed officials the schoolbooks "steeped a generation in [Islamist] violence."

How could this result have been unintended? Did they expect that giving fundamentalist schoolbooks to schoolchildren would make them moderate Muslims?


Let's be reasonable


Nobody with normal intelligence could expect to distribute millions of violent Islamist schoolbooks without influencing school children towards violent Islamism. Therefore one would assume that the unnamed US officials who, we are told, are distressed at these "unintended consequences" must previously have been unaware of the Islamist content of the schoolbooks.

But surely someone was aware. The US government can't write, edit, print and ship millions of violent, Muslim fundamentalist primers into Afghanistan without high officials in the US government approving those primers.

So if the books weren't supposed to be Islamist, that is if their fanatical content contradicted US policy in Afghanistan, shouldn't the mass media and top politicians, such as President George Bush, now be calling for an investigation? Shouldn't they be demanding to know the identity of the official or officials who subverted the intended US policy by flooding Afghanistan with jihad primers?

Indeed, considering the disastrous consequences, shouldn't US officials and the media be questioning the very practice of violating the sovereignty of other countries by distributing millions of Islamic fundamentalist schoolbooks?

Yet using the media search engine, Lexis-Nexis, we could find no evidence that any mainstream Western newspaper, other than the Washington Post, nor any TV station or government leader ever questioned, let alone denounced, the export of millions of Islamist schoolbooks to Afghanistan.

Quite the contrary.

For example here's what the Boston Globe wrote in an article about the obstacles to education in Afghanistan, a year after the US invasion:

"The obstacles to accomplishing that goal are enormous. What few schools impoverished Afghanistan once had - about 2,000 - are now all virtually destroyed, pummeled by gunfire or turned into refugee camps. Teachers here have not been paid for months, even years. Those schoolbooks that still exist are pro-Taliban screeds and deemed unusable.
-- Elizabeth Neuffer in the Boston Globe, March 17, 2002

The article implies that the unusable textbooks were produced by and for the Taliban - "pro-Taliban screeds."  The author, Elizabeth Neuffer, is the Globe's UN Bureau Chief. Surely she must know that the textbooks in question were made in USA and that the US is continuing to ship Islamist textbooks into Afghanistan. Instead of exposing the scandal that the US promotes Muslim fanaticism in Afghanistan, she misrepresents the books and misleads her readers.

Other newspapers spun more elaborate lies. Here is the Daily Telegraph from Sydney, Australia:

[Daily Telegraph excerpt starts here]

"AFGHAN children ran, skipped and dawdled to their classrooms like pupils everywhere yesterday for the start of a new school year -- with girls and women teachers back in class and subjects like math replacing the Islamic dogma of the Taliban.

"In a symbolic break from a war-scarred past, children opened new textbooks written by Afghan scholars based at universities in the US.

"There are even pictures of people -- images banned by the fundamentalist Taliban."

- The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), March 25, 2002 [3]

[Daily Telegraph excerpt ends here]

By beginning the article with the irrelevant but cheery image -  "Afghan children ran, skipped and dawdled...[etc]." - the Telegraph prepares us for an upbeat news experience. We are not disappointed. We are told that in the new textbooks:

"There are even pictures of people -- images banned by the fundamentalist Taliban."
-- Daily Telegraph  See footnote

Again we get the impression that the Taliban were responsible for the bad old texts but due to the US invasion "children opened new textbooks...".

Unfortunately, as the Washington Post investigators reported:

"Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamentalist code." -- Washington Post, March 23, 2002

Other than their objections to the human face, the Taliban were perfectly happy with the US-produced primers.

As if presenting evidence of a sea change, the Telegraph tells that now Afghan children have schoolbooks "written by Afghan scholars based at universities in the US."

Similarly, an article five weeks earlier in the Omaha World-Herald declares that, "Afghanistan stands at least a chance of hauling a modern, healthy society up out of the ashes of war and oppression," partly because University of Nebraska at Omaha "officials and staffers" will be "cranking up their presses in neighboring Pakistan" to churn out schoolbooks, all funded by "a $ 6.5 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development [AID]." [4]

Neither newspaper mentions that the bad old schoolbooks "were developed in the early 1980s under an AID grant to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and its Center for Afghanistan Studies." -- Washington Post, March 23, 2002)

What about the US government? Have any US congressmen demanded an investigation to find out who in the US government was involved in the production of jihad primers that "steeped a generation in [Islamist] violence"?

No they have not.


Speaking of forked tongues...


What about George Walker Bush?

You may recall that George and Laura Bush have made passionate speeches denouncing Islamic fundamentalism. At first Mr. Bush told us we needed to attack Afghanistan in order to stop Mr. bin Laden. But later on he and Laura Bush told us we were fighting to crush the vicious fundamentalists.

Has George Bush said anything about the textbooks?

Yes, Mr. Bush talked about the jihad primers in a March 16th radio broadcast. He held nothing back:

"And before the end of the year, we'll have sent almost 10 million of them [that is, new textbooks] to the children of Afghanistan. These textbooks will teach tolerance and respect for human dignity instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry."
[My emphasis -- J.I.]

-- George W. Bush, "Weekly Radio Address," March 16, 2002 [5]

Note the phrase, "instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry."

So according to Bush, Afghan school children won't have to contend with bad schoolbooks anymore because finally the US has taken charge, replacing those other guys, those evil educators who published textbooks "indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry."

The amazing thing is not only that he tells such total lies but that he delivers them with such righteous indignation.

What about the new textbooks? Will they "teach tolerance and respect for human dignity" as Honest George promises?

To be precise (which may be unwise in today's world) how will the new textbooks that George Bush Junior is shipping into Afghanistan differ from the old ones? You know, those old books that were also designed at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and paid for by the US government agency, AID? You know, those old, un-American books that George Bush Junior attacked for "indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry"? Those terrible old books that were shipped into Afghanistan by Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior?

Here's the Washington Post again:

"On Feb. 4, [Chris Brown, head of book revision for AID's Central Asia Task Force] arrived in Peshawar, the Pakistani border town in which the textbooks were to be printed, to oversee hasty revisions to the printing plates. Ten Afghan educators labored night and day, scrambling to replace rough drawings of weapons with sketches of pomegranates and oranges, Brown said."
[My emphasis -- J.I.]

-- Washington Post, March 23, 2002

So it appears that the only change is that some violent pictures have been removed from the printing plates and some fruit has been added. There is no indication that the texts have been changed.

What does a non-fundamentalist Afghan educator think about the new schoolbooks?

"'The pictures [in the old schoolbooks] are horrendous to school students, but the texts are even much worse,' said Ahmad Fahim Hakim, an Afghan educator who is a program coordinator for Cooperation for Peace and Unity, a Pakistan-based nonprofit.'"
[My emphasis -- J.I.]

-- Washington Post, March 23, 2002

So the United States government is right now shipping into Afghanistan millions of Islamic Fundamentalist schoolbooks whose texts, according to a non-Fundamentalist Afghan educator, are not just "horrendous," they are "much worse."

Is it possible that this is all a terrible mistake? That Mr. Bush and US AID just don't know what's in the new schoolbooks?

Apparently not.

According to the Washington Post, the "White House defends the religious content" of the schoolbooks. And as for US AID, the Agency for International Development, which pays for the books:

'It's not AID's policy to support religious instruction,' Stratos said. 'But we went ahead with this project because the primary purpose . . . is to educate children, which is predominantly a secular activity.'"
-- Washington Post, March 23, 2002

So because education is predominantly secular it's OK for the schoolbooks to be entirely fundamentalist. Likewise, since marriage is predominantly monogamous it's OK to cheat. And since banks are predominantly places where people deposit money, it's OK to rob a bank.

Got it?

Mr. Bush describes the texts of the old books as "indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry." But note, having been republished in the new books, these exact same texts have been reborn. Now they are "religious instruction" (says US AID) and "religious content" (says the White House). It's a modern miracle.

Reading these news reports and statements one might feel a certain sympathy for citizens of the US and allied countries, required to hold in their minds at one time a) the conviction that Mr. Bush is sincerely fighting Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan and b) the knowledge that the US is spending millions of dollars to indoctrinate Afghan school children with Islamic fundamentalism.

Not to worry. This problem has been solved by the US and allied mass media, which, with the exception of the Washington Post, have never told their readers and viewers who it was that produced the old books or what it is that's in the new ones.

Even the Washington Post has pulled its punches. For example, consider the headline of the March 23rd article, the only one that deals critically with the jihad primers.

Here's the headline. (Headlines are quite important because with any given article, most people only read the headline.)

"From U.S., the ABC's of Jihad; Violent Soviet-Era Textbooks Complicate Afghan Education Efforts."

"Violent Soviet-Era textbooks." This phrase doesn't even make it clear that the books were shipped in by the US government! They could have been hateful Russian books.

And the phrase "Complicate Afghan Education Efforts" sounds like the books are hindering current US attempts at effecting progressive change. Nobody would guess from this headline that US AID has been forcing Islamic fundamentalist texts on Afghan kids for 20 years or that they're still importing the same texts today, minus the guns and with more fruit.

In the body of the article the Post asserts without evidence that steeping "a generation in [Islamist] violence" was an "unintended consequence" of giving Afghan children violent Islamist schoolbooks.

"Unintended consequence" is fast becoming the US Establishment's favorite excuse for the many disasters of its foreign policy. "We didn't know. We weren't prepared. We used old maps. We didn't see the train. We thought there were tanks in the refugee column. Who could have expected this to happen?" and on and on.

But does the case of the Islamist textbooks involve unintended consequences? Doesn't it in fact appear to be deliberate policy?

Now wouldn't it be considerate if they told us: what's the policy?

-- Jared Israel
Editor, Emperor's Clothes

* Footnotes & Further Reading follow the Appeal *

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1) Washington Post, March 23, 2002, "From U.S., the ABC's Of Jihad; Violent Soviet-Era Textbooks Complicate Afghan Education Efforts." a 

2) The Boston Globe March 17, 2002, Sunday, Third Edition Focus; Pg. E1 "The Task: Educating A Generation Of Women, And Quickly With A Female Literacy Rate Of Less Than 4 Percent, Teachers Face Obstacles Even With The Taliban Gone" By Elizabeth Neuffer (The Globe's United Nations Bureau Chief)

3) The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), March 25, 2002, Monday * World; Pg. 19, "Girls' Return Spells Out School Changes - War On Terror: A Nation's Hope"
By Alexandre Peyrille And Mehrdad Balali In Kabul

4) Omaha World-Herald, February 8, 2002 Friday Sunrise Edition Editorial; Pg. 6b

5) March 16, 2002 Saturday, FDCH Political Transcripts, "George W. Bush Delivers Weekly Radio Address"


... And Further Reading


* 'Congressman: U.S. Set Up Anti-Taliban to be Slaughtered'. Congressional testimony suggests US covertly supported Taliban.

* 'Washington's Backing of Afghan Terrorists: Deliberate Policy' From "Washington Post' with EC introduction.

* 'Taliban Camps U.S. bombed in Afghanistan Were Built by NATO'
From 'N.Y. Times'. U.S. and Saudi aid to Afghan-based terrorists totaled $6 billion plus.

* 'Excerpts from News Reports - Bin Laden in the Balkans' Bin Laden is still aiding some U.S.-sponsored forces in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.

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